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New research finds blood clot risks with birth control pills

Dec 5, 2012

Women suffering from a common hormonal disorder face a greater risk of developing life-threatening blood clots while taking oral contraceptive pills.

A new study from University of Virginia School of Medicine shows that women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are more likely to develop blood clots while taking a birth control pill than women who do not feature this hormonal abnormality. This study appears in the most recent edition of Canadian Medical Association Journal. The research indicates that women suffering from PCOS who take an oral contraceptive are doubling their risk of suffering a blood clot, but the overall risk is still relatively low. 

About 5 to 10 percent of all women currently are diagnosed with PCOS. The hormonal condition can cause irregular menstrual cycles and women with PCOS are often found to have ovarian cysts. 

The study from University of Virginia researchers examined equal amounts of women diagnosed or not diagnosed with PCOS, more than 43,000 of each. It appears based on the research that a PCOS diagnosis, alone, increases a woman's risk of developing blood clots. For women taking birth control pills while diagnosed with PCOS, the risk of a blood clot was double. For women with PCOS but not taking a birth control pill, the risk was 1.5 times higher than the average risk of a blood clot.

Based on the results of this study, researchers in Virginia believe that physicians should reconsider the use of oral contraceptives for women with PCOS. The threat of thromboembolism for these women, although small, is serious as this side effect can often produce life-threatening reactions, like a heart attack or stroke. For some women, like those over the age of 35 or for those who smoke while diagnosed with PCOS, the risk is amplified even more and one study author suggested that physicians avoid prescribing birth control pills for these women altogether. 

This study adds to research showing the dangerous side effects of taking oral contraceptives. Canadian Medical Association Journal recently published another study recently that showed the same dangerous posed by contraceptives containing the hormone drosperinone. These include newer contraceptives like Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella, which many other studies have linked to this life-threatening side effect of blood clots. 

This new research shows that all forms of oral contraceptives pose this same risk.

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